Four agonizing months later, the vast majority of which I spent lying flat on my back in bed, our daughter, Maret, arrived. She was everything I prayed for, pink-cheeked and bawling. As I held her safe and healthy in my arms, I knew I would never ever be the same.
During the months between that fateful plane ride and her birth, something in me changed. I had tried to keep working from my bed, but the pressure from client calls and work crises sent me racing to the emergency room with stress-induced contractions. Meanwhile, I found unexpected pleasure teaching William new words (knife, elephant, Rapunzel), memorizing the names of his favorite construction equipment (digger, excavator, bulldozer, backhoe), and watching yet another episode of Thomas the Tank Engine together from my bed. He begged me to take him to the park, but I couldn’t get up, the risks were too great, so we imagined what we would do when I could.
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After sixteen weeks of bed rest, my career, the very thing that had defined me, simply was not what defined me anymore. Yes, I had skills and abilities I wanted to put to good use in the world, but right here, right now, this new baby, her older brother, and my husband mattered more than my job.
Don’t misunderstand me we needed my paycheck. Beyond the unexpected medical bills, we still owed tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, had a hefty mortgage on our new home, and were desperate for a second car. We both had long commutes (of course, in opposite directions), but Bill generously patched together carpools and took public transportation while I drove our old, beat-up Honda Civic to work each day. It wasn’t fair to him and it was hard on me when he arrived home late and exhausted every night.
“Just think,” I said when I broached the subject of quitting my job, “your commute will get so much easier because I won’t need the car every day.”
Bill laughed at the thought, but not heartily. He’d told me one of the things he found appealing about me was my commitment to my career. “I knew we’d always be partners, sharing equal weight at work and in the home,” he’d said. And we had, until now. I promised him I’d find some way to cover my share of our bills, but going back to a job that required me to commute an hour each way, to work well past our children’s bedtime, to travel frequently, and to forgo weekends at the whim of my clients simply wasn’t something I was willing to do. At least not for the time being. Bill, who had always supported me, reluctantly agreed. Then I called my boss and told her I was quitting.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “It’ll be hard to get back on track if you leave.”
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